Thursday, September 03, 2015

Leaving, on a jet plane....... 3rd September

What happened to travelling light, with just a backpack and two walking poles?

This time I've got a small suitcase for Marion who has a quick change at Madrid airport to the ALSA bus so she won't have time to collect baggage after landing. 
I've also got stuff to take to San Anton and gifts for a few people along the way.  The bigger suitcase is mine. 
Believe it or not, my rolled up backpack is in the pink shoulder bag together with toiletries and medication. 
Passport, air ticket, bus ticket, note book and money is in the Jeep waist bag.  I could walk like a medieval pilgrim with just a shoulder bag and a walking pole!

Its going to be a long journey.  We'll leave home at 9h30, have the cases bubble wrapped, fly to Johannesburg at 12h10, fly to Doha after 3pm, then to Madrid after midnight arriving at 8h10; then a 4 hour bus ride to Logrono arriving at 14h45 tomorrow. 
Moyra will be waiting for me at the bus station to help drag the cases to the Pension near the cathedral. 
Marion arrives by bus at 7pm so we will go back to the bus station to fetch her.
One couple arrive from the USA at 10pm and we are planning on waiting up for them.
Thank heavens we don't walk until Monday!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

ON THE ROAD AGAIN - September 2015

One more sleep and I will leave for Spain to walk a short section of the Camino Frances with a group of pilgrims, and serve as a hospitalera in a pilgrim shelter for two weeks.

amaWalkers Camino has 6 groups walking the Camino this year - 4 on the 'Best of Both' Camino Frances route from St Jean to Santiago, and 2 on the 'Complete Your Camino' from Logrono. 
Marion is leading the September 'Complete Your Camino' and I will walk with her and the group as far as Burgos where I will leave them to go to the ruined monastery of San Anton where I will serve in a small shelter for 12 pilgrims until 27th September.

Marion and me on the Camino Ingles - 2009

Marion is an experienced Camino trekker.  We met in 1997 at the start of a 50km walk from Inchanga to Durban.  We walked the route together and remained friends.  In 2000 we ran the Comrades marathon together.  In 2001 we walked the Coast to Coast in England, in 2006 the Via Francigena from Switzerland to Rome, in 2007 the Camino Frances from Roncesvalles to Santiago and in 2009 from Lourdes to Pamplona on the Aragones route and the Camino Ingles from Ferrol to Santiago.  Next year amaWalkers is leading 4 groups on the Via Francigena and Marion will be one of the group leaders. 

We meet in Logrono on Friday.  The rest of the group should all be there by Saturday and we have planned a visit to the castle of Clavijo on Sunday, about 18km south of Logrono, where Saint James was first seen as Santiago on a white horse, brandishing his sword at the battle between Christians and Moors, slaying thousands of the enemy. The legend was first written about 300 years after the supposed battle took place and is one of the many legends of Saint James and Santiago.

Santo Domingo de Silos - home of  Gregorian Chant

On Monday we will start walking westward towards Santiago stopping at Navarrete, Najera, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Belorado, San Jaun de Ortega and Burgos.  I will leave the group in Burgos and they will have an overnight excursion to Santo Domingo de Silos where the monks made Gregorian chant famous in the 1990s.  They return to Burgos the next day and continue walking west for 15 more days, leaving out the sections they walked when doing the 'Best of Both' Camino and arriving in Santiago on 27th September. 

The atmospheric pilgrim shelter at San Anton was created in 2002 by Ovid Field who has a pension in Castrojeriz.  It sleeps 12 pilgrims in 6 double bunks and has beds for 3 hospitaleros in a container, tucked under the ruined walls.  Many shelters in the middle ages catered for 12 pilgrims which is symbolic of the number of apostles.  There is no electricity and no running water. 
This is the notice I received about the shelter: 

"THIS IS A VERY LAID-BACK PLACE. There is no strict schedule and no real “rules” except a ban on smoking indoors, littering, drug use, excessive noise, and the ever-present water shortage.
This is a DONATIVO albergue. No one is turned away for lack of funds, and we do not make any suggestions regarding how much a stay is worth. Show the pilgrims where the donativo box is, put it on the table at breakfast time, and leave it at that.   

Gates are open from 8 a.m to 10 p.m. Anyone can come or go during that time, you should give everyone a smile and a welcome.  Groups of people CANNOT line up to use the toilet, as we do not have water capacity for that.  Pilgrims can take rests at San Anton, but no one can use the shower who is not staying overnight. No camping is allowed. Animals are admitted according to your judgement; owner is to clean up after them.

You are expected to make a dinner each day for pilgrims, using the simple ingredients on hand. The stove is a four-burner, powered with Butane. Have someone show you how to change the butane bottle if you don’t know how – it isn’t hard, but there is a knack to it.  The kitchen is pretty well equipped to serve 12. Be sure to find out if you have vegetarian guests before you start cooking! Breakfast is served at 7 or 7:30 am., nothing elaborate.
We would like to make a special effort this year to maintain the niches in the arch across the road outside. The Antonine monks who lived at San Anton used to leave food out there for pilgrims who arrived after the gates were closed. They now are used by pilgrims as a place to leave little offerings, prayer requests, or notes of thanksgiving. Please keep them orderly; replace faded flowers, pull weeds, etc. If so inclined, offer prayers for the requests left there. "

Kevin Duke from Durban is serving there from the 1 - 15 September and I'm looking forward to spending a couple of days with him during the hand over.

I will arrive in Santiago on 27th September and will meet up with 6 peregrinas from Jon's 'Best of Both' group.  We are flying to Barcelona the next day and will spend a night there.  Viator tickets for a guided tour of the Sagrada Familia have been booked. 


When we visited last year the queue was so long that we couldn't get inside and I'm making sure that this time we will skip the queues and spend time inside the cathedral.
This is going to be a very different Camino experience for me as it will be the first time in 10 Caminos that I won't be walking into Santiago.  But, there are many layers to the Camino and each one has been different, each one offering a unique experience.
Roll on Friday!!


Thursday, May 21, 2015


Every year a few pilgrims die whilst on the Camino.  Some have heart attacks, others die of existing conditions, and many more are killed on the roads by vehicles.  The numerous memorials erected by the loved ones of those who lost their lives on the Camino are a poignant reminder that with over 500 000 pilgrims on the Caminos, deaths will occur. 
In the middle ages, if a pilgrim died whilst on a pilgrimage, they would by-pass purgatory and go straight to heaven.  It is a comforting thought for those who have lost loved ones on the Camino.  May they all rest in peace,

Here are a few names (incomplete) compiled from the list on the Spanish Federation website.  If you know someone who has died on the Camino whose name is not on this list, please send details to: and to me via this blog

Alice de Craemer , pilgrim Belgian cyclist, died July 1, 1986 in Navarrete (La Rioja) hit by a vehicle whilst on pilgrimage with her ​​husband who was injured.
 Heinrich Krause , German cyclist pilgrim 26, died Aug. 31, 1987 in El Acebo (Leon) in accident on his bicycle.


Charles Prosper Remmy , Strasbourg French cyclist pilgrim, a priest of 56 years, died on August 17, 1989 in the village of La Granja (Sarria, Lugo) from cardiac arrest.

 Mario Rafael Gonzalez , Spanish pilgrim, died on July 4, 1993 in Los Arcos (Navarre) hit by a vehicle.

Guillermo Watt , Swiss pilgrim died on August 25, 1993 in Salceda (La Coruña).

 Mariano Sanchez Covisa Car , Spanish pilgrim, died on September 24, 1993 in Cerceda (Arca, La Coruña).
 Nicolaas Adrianus Henricus Theeeuwes , Dutch cyclist pilgrim 54, died on July 12, 1995.
1995 in Sahagún (León) hit by a car while returning to his country.

Jose Rodriguez Marcos, pilgrim rider 60 years, a native of Oviedo, died on July 25, 1995 between Palas de Rey and Monterroso (Lugo) following a heart attack.

 Paul Rolf Bäcker , Dutch cyclist pilgrim, died on June 14, 1996 in the hostel Melide (La Coruna) of a heart attack.

Manfred Kress , German cyclist pilgrim 60, died on June 9, 1998 at Camino Real Bercianos (Leon).

Libertad de Ramón , Enrique Lopez, Natividad Alonso and Carmen Navarro, bus pilgrims from the Diocese of Astorga,  died on May 23, 1999 when their bus had an accident.

Francisco Javier Fernandez Azcona , pilgrim Oteiza 34, Navarre, drowned in Finisterre on 27 March 1999 after completing his pilgrimage

Emilio Muñoz Guerrero, a pilgrim from San Sebastian de los Reyes (Madrid), died on May 4, 1999 while climbing the Alto de Erro (Navara).

Iñaki Esnal Murga , Spanish pilgrim who died on May 21, 1999 in Rabanal del Camino (Leon).

Melendo Bernedi Sabin, a pilgrim from Bilbao, 62, died on June 5, 1999 in Leon at the start of his pilgrimage.

Javier Mendez Biurrun, pilgrim of Tafalla (Navarra), died on June 22, 1999 at the hostel in Leon.

G. Clifford Noylan, pilgrim American cyclist, died on July 9 on the N-120 at the entrance of Navarrete (La Rioja) - he was run over by a truck.

Lionel Douhaud, French pilgrim, died on July 22, 1999 shortly before reaching Melide (La Coruña) he was hit by a van

Francisco Juarez Arbeloa, from Leganes (Madrid), 59, died July 11, 2000 in Melide (La Coruna) of a heart attack.

A Spanish Pilgrim, born in Sabadell (Barcelona), cyclist, died near Ponferrada (León) hit by a

Miguel Angel Rocino, born in Buenos Aires, who died on 13-11-2000 aged 67.


Jouko Juhani Tyyri , Finnish pilgrim, died on May 9, 2001 at the pilgrim's hostel in Ponferrada (León) in his sleep.

A Brazilian Peregrino , 48 years old, disappeared on January 13, 2002 in the Pyrenees and found dead on January 23, 2002 by two pilgrims.

A French Pilgrim , 78 years old, disappeared on April 3, 2002 between Saint-Jean-Pied de Port and Roncesvalles and found dead a few days later by hikers near Ortzanzurieta (Navarra).

Catherine Marie Kimpton , Canadian pilgrim, died on June 2, 2002 in Villatuerta (Navarra) hit by a car. Her husband was injured.

A French Pilgrim, walking with his wife, died June 4 in Sarria (Lugo).

Klanke Ulbrich, German pilgrim 59, died on June 25, 2002.

Braum Henrietta, German pilgrim who was struck by a vehicle on June 25, 2002 and died June 27 in Pamplona (Navarra).

José María Huerta Otero, 25 pilgrim of Cadiz, died July 11, 2002 in the shelter of Rabanal del Camino (Leon) due to meningitis.

JRBF, pilgrim Lodosa (Navarra), 49, died on August 17, 2002 in the shelter of el Ganso (Leon).

A Canadian Peregrina, 49, died in 2002 at the hostel of Sarria (Lugo).

Shingo Yamashita , a veteran Japanese pilgrim, 64-year-old was found dead on November 8, 2002 between Linzoaín and Zubiri (Navarra).


Myra Brennan (52 yrs)  of Kilkenny and Sligo, Ireland, died in her sleep at the end of her second Camino in Santiago 24.06.2003

Francis J. Barte , French pilgrim and 59 Athos-Aspis, died March 5, 2003 near Valcarlos (Navarra).

Lukassen , Dutch cyclist pilgrim, died on June 7, 2003 climbing to Cebreiro (Lugo).

Bertaco Giovanni , Italian pilgrim 73, died on August 12, 2003 in Camponaraya (Leon)

Franz Joseph Kokf , Belgian pilgrim 67, died on April 28, 2004 in Guendulaín (Navarra)  of a heart attack.

Bongardt W. Hubert , German cyclist pilgrim 66, died May 18 in the town of Moratinos (Palencia) - hit by a van.

Surda Anton , Slovak pilgrim, died on May 22, 2004 in Legarda (Navarra) - hit by a car.

Chápuli Alande Vicente , Valencia Pilgrim 35, died on July 24, 2004 in San Justo de la Vega (León) - hit by a vehicle.

Barttolo Revelatto, Italian cyclist pilgrim 61, died on August 14, 2004 in Ponferrada (Leon) in his sleep at his hotel.

Robert Edmond, Pilgrim 56, died on August 21, 2004 in Valverde de la Virgen (Leon) after a stroke.

Luis Hoyos, pilgrim rider Villaba (Navarra), 24, died on August 23, 2004 in Mansilla de las Mulas (León) - run over by a van.

Ramon Gonzalez de Mendoza Diego Villacé, pilgrim of Extremadura, died on April 21, 2004.

Bernhard Stefan Jüttner, German pilgrim 63, died on September 12, 2004 in the shelter of Sahagún (León) in his sleep.

An Italian Pilgrim with terminal cancer, died on Sept. 21 at the Cathedral of Santiago after fulfilling his pilgrimage.

Francis Marsac , French pilgrim who came from Le Puy, died on May 16, 2005.

Zumsand Werner, a pilgrim who came from Saint Jean Pied de Port, died on May 24, 2005 in El Cebreiro (Lugo) after a heart attack.

Jean Marchandy, French cyclist pilgrim, died on June 1, 2005 in Tiebas (Navarra) hit by a vehicle.

Jose Manuel Llamazares Alvarez , 69 Spanish pilgrim coming from Oviedo, died on July 1, 2005 in Santiago de Compostela after fulfilling his pilgrimage.

PG, French pilgrim of 65 years walking with his wife, died on September 15, 2005 in the shelter of Astorga (León) after a heart attack.

Ana Teresa Hernandez, Spanish pilgrim 19, died on September 18, 2005 in Gonzar (Lugo) due to arteriosclerosis.

 Torremocha Carlos Lorenzo, pilgrim and hospitalero veteran of 63 years, died on January 8, 2006 in Tres Cantos (Madrid) after a heart attack - just 15 kilometres after starting the road from his home in Madrid.

Christine Gall, French pilgrim who died after starting her pilgrimage to Saint Jean Pied de Port.

Vanhersecke Claude, French pilgrim who died after starting his pilgrimage in Le Puy.

Benno Lignau, German pilgrim veteran of 69 years who started his fifth pilgrimage at Canfranc , died on the morning of June 17, 2006 at a hotel in Mansilla de las Mulas (León) in his sleep

Inigo Ibarrondo, pilgrim from Seville, 48, began the Via de la Plata in Seville and died at the end of its second stage, on August 4, 2006 at the hostel of Castilblanco de los Arroyos (Sevilla) due to cardiac arrest.

Santino Joseph Campo and Julian Manzano , 50 and 51, both friends and strangers and hospitaleros that after a pilgrimage to Santiago on the Camino Portuguese, on their journey back home, died on August 21, 2006 in Villada (Palencia) in train accident.

Higinio Aguado, Spanish pilgrim of 67 years of age, died on September 8 in Villafranca Montes de Oca (Burgos) after suffering a fainting spell.

A Pilgrim, 62 years old, died on September 9, 2006 after Castrogeriz (Burgos) as he climbed the height of Mostelares.

Rosa Maria Seia Amorim, a Portuguese pilgrim who came by bicycle from Barcelos (Portugal), died on September 29, 2006 during the course of the last stage and close to Santiago.

Rosanna from Verona (2006) just after Zuriain


Chris Phillips , 51 Scottish pilgrim left Saint Jean Pied de Port for Roncesvalles but did not arrive because of the snow. He was found the following day April 4, 2007 just 50m from the road and taken to a hospital in Pamplona, where he died of hyperthermia.

Jean Bernard Andre Gros, 65 French pilgrim who walked the road with his wife, died on the afternoon of May 14, 2007 in Palas de Rei (Lugo), while resting at a hotel.

Kelly Tomas Murillo, a pilgrim of Costa Rica 61 years old, walked with his sister from Saint Jean Pied de Port, but died in May 2007 of a heart attack.

Fuhrmeister Lambert, 76 German pilgrim, who was found dead on June 9, 2007 after passing Puente la Reina (Navarra),

Gonzalo Bañolas Bolaños , pilgrim Canary 46, died on June 26, 2007 in Burgos where he was about to start walking the Camino de Santiago.

Jesus Sanchez, pilgrim rider from Vitoria (Alava) who did the Camino with his son, was hit by a car on July 28, 2007 and died on 31 at a hospital in Orense.

Gilles Chanovin, 58 French pilgrim who came from Le Puy, died on August 7, 2007 early in the morning after being hit by a car on the slope of Pieros (Leon)

Andrés García Pelayo, pilgrim rider Algeciras (Cádiz), 41, died on September 5, 2007 after fainting while climbing the Cebreiro.

James Niergang , French pilgrim 63, died on the night of 15 to 16 October 2007 at the hostel of Nájera (La Rioja) in his sleep.

Uberlinda Cortes 8-12-1945 – 21-5-2008 on her second Camino, also just west of Rabanal
AG , Limoges French pilgrim, 60, died on May 6, 2008 near Mañeru (Navarra), of a heart attack.

Rodrigo Grossi, pilgrim veteran and President of Astur-Leonese Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago (Oviedo), 74, died on May 18, 2008 near Tarrueza (Cantabria)  of a heart attack while on North Road with their Association.

Paul Anthon Wharsop, pilgrim English cyclist, 60, died on May 30, 2008 between Valcarlos and the Ibañeta Pass (Navarra), of a heart attack.

Home Thomas Huete, Cuenca veteran pilgrim, 61, who was about to start in mid-July 2008 a new journey in Leon, when he died of a heart attack.

Francisco Javier Burgos Lizaldez , pilgrim of Zaragoza, 53, who made the road from the Somport, died on September 10, 2008 near Sangüesa (Navarra), of a heart attack.

Efferen Werner, German pilgrim who had istarted the Way in Saint Jean Pied de Port, died on September 13, 2008 in Foncebadón (Leon).

Jose Manuel Caudet Peris, a pilgrim of Valencia, 57, died on September 15, 2008 at the Cathedral of Santiago, as he climbed the steps to give the embrace of the Saint, of a heart attack.

Francisco Manuel Lopez Picasso, Malaga veteran pilgrim, 42, died on September 25, 2008 after spending the night in Castrogeriz (Burgos) and as he climbed the hill Mostelares.

Manuel Rodríguez Viña, pilgrim and hospitalero of Zaragoza, 55 years, while serving as a hospitalero in Arrés (Huesca) had to be rushed to hospital in Huesca, where he died on the night of 20 to 21 October 2008 of meningitis.


Lucio Cardillo , Italian pilgrim, 70, died on May 26, 2009 in Burgos. His family continued the pilgrimage on his behalf.

CP, Italian cyclist pilgrim, 34, died on June

Pedro Fernandez Fernandez, a veteran pilgrim and hospitalero, 60, who had to stop in May 2009  in the shelter of Samos when he fell ill died on June 22, 2009 at a hospital in Leon.

Brants Manuel Reyes, a veteran pilgrim and hospitalero of Madrid, 45, died on August 21, 2001 while serving in the shelter in Nájera (La Rioja), of a heart attack.

Mönnigmann Josef Werner, German pilgrim Sassenberg, 60, died on September 9, 2009 in the shelter of Azofra (La Rioja), of a heart attack.

Efferen Werner, German pilgrim who came from Saint Jean Pied de Port, died on September 13, 2009 in Foncebadón (Leon).

Alfons , Belgian pilgrim died on September 29, 2009 in the shelter of Mansilla de las Mulas (León), of a heart attack.

Romain Floener, luxenburgués pilgrim who did the Portuguese Way, died in late September 2009 in Porriño (Pontevedra).

Gerhard Theodor Waber, German pilgrim of Augsburg, 57, died on December 1, 2009 at a hospital in Burgos where he had to be admitted.

 Anters Steffen , German pilgrim, 26, died on January 17, 2010 after being struck by a train near Sergude (La Coruna), between Vedra and Susanna, a few kilometers from Compostela.

Manuel Jimenez, a veteran pilgrim from Madrid, 78, died early Sunday in April 25th, 2010 at the exit of Navarrete (La Rioja) while doing the 'Valvanerada', of a heart attack.

Juan Bautista Prats i Catala , pilgrim, 68, died the night of 28 to 29 April 2010 while he slept in the village of Hontanas (Burgos), of a heart attack.

Linus Gillis, Canadian pilgrim started in Saint Jean Pied de Port, 62 years old, died on May 17, 2010 in Terradillos of the Templars (Palencia).

Enrique Luis Ferraro, 77 Canadian died in Cacabelos Municipal Albergue on May 20, 2010 walking his 5th Camino

Christiaan Adrianus Van Gol Jacqueline, Dutch pilgrims made the journey by bicycle from his country, 71 years old, died on May 22, 2010 in Leon victim of cardiac arrest.

An Italian pilgrim, 31 years old, died on July 9, 2010 when he amounted Ibañeta (Navarra), due to heat stroke.

Carmelo Arnaiz Chaton, Spanish pilgrim, 68, died July 9 at the hostel of Avilés (Asturias) in his sleep, of a heart attack.

Guilio Recusani, Italian pilgrim, aged 26, drowned on August 20, 2010 in Finisterre, after completing the pilgrimage to Compostela and continuing to Finisterre.

George Kollen, German pilgrim, 67 years old, who performed the pilgrimage with a group of his nationality, died on the morning of October 16, 2010 between Portomarín and Sarria (Lugo), of a heart attack.
Pater Georg , Bremen German pilgrim who walked the Camino de Santiago to Compostela from Porto, 68, died the day after his arrival in a pension of Santiago on April 7, 2011.
Iohannes Schouten, Dutch pilgrim, 63 years old, died on April 11, 2011 in Pamplona during their pilgrimage

Angel Perez Salinas , Navarra pilgrim who came on foot from Saint Jean Pied de Port, died on April 24, 2011 unexpectedly in Palas de Rey.

Johanna Chmel, pilgrim of Austria, died on May 10, 2011 without being able to complete the Camino in Santiago.

Skov Arne Schmidt, Danish pilgrim 76, died of a heart attack about 100m after the passing ancient the Roman Bridge before Lorca.  In 2012 his widow and family members erected this iron cross in his memory.

José María del Arco , a pilgrim of Ciudad Rodrigo (Salamanca), died on June 17, 2011 in Astorga in the course of their pilgrimage.

Nicole Bigo, a pilgrim from France who began his road in Le Puy en Velay, died before reaching Santiago.

Herceg-Peterdi Reka, Hungarian pilgrim walking from Saint Jean Pied de Port died in Leon.

Cornelius Bernardus Ignatius Winter, a pilgrim from Holland, died on September 7, 2011 in Ponferrada.

Franciscus Johannes Maria van Everardus Gijzel, Dutch cyclist pilgrim coming from the shrine of Santiago de Galder (Netherlands) died on October 12, 2011.

Constantine Ferrandis Campins , Mallorca pilgrim who died unexpectedly before starting his pilgrimage, his teammates made the pilgrimage on his behalf and arrived in Santiago on October 18, 2011.

Maria del Pilar Hernandez Garnes, Castellón Pilgrim began the road in Roncesvalles and reached  Logroño where she became ill and died shortly afterwards.

Sebastien Thomas , French pilgrim coming from Mont Saint Michel, died on March 3, 2012 in the course of his pilgrimage.

A pilgrim Italian cyclist , 67 years old, died on April 24 in the vicinity of Fuente de Cantos (Badajoz), hit by a vehicle.

Joan Ramon Caparros Segui , Barcelona pilgrim pilgrimage began in Seville, died suddenly on May 10, 2012 on entry to Santiago de Compostela.

Mark Byron Dennis , pilgrim of Michigan (USA), 53 years old, died on May 31 in the shelter of Burgos, in his sleep.
A British pilgrim 66 years old, died suddenly on July 24 in Ponferrada, while walking on the Sil River Bridge.

Freddy Heylen , Belgian cyclist pilgrim coming from Antwerp, died on July 31, 2012 in Villafranca

A pilgrim in Sabadell (Barcelona) , 64 years old, died suddenly on August 14 in the vicinity of Castaneda (Arzúa, La Coruña), due to a heart attack.

Eric Rudolf Selman , Dutch pilgrim coming from Oviedo, died on September 26, 2012 in Arzúa (La Coruña).

RNA pilgrim Tarragona Ourense resident, 65 years old, died on September 11 in the vicinity of Lalin (Pontevedra), hit by a vehicle.

A pilgrim Belgian , 25 years old, who was found dead on the morning of October 24, 2012 at the viewpoint of Monte del Gozo Santiago de Compostela.
Jenaro Cebrián Franco, canon of the Cathedral of Santiago and director of the Pilgrim Office, 77 years old, died on January 1, 2012 in Santiago de Compostela victim of a heart attack.
Gilbert Janeri,  8 March 2003 , Brazilian pilgrim, 44-year-old, who was found dead in the Ozanzurieta close to Roncesvalles (Navarra), on March 22, 2013

 Wolscanc Albert Albrecht , German pilgrim 70, died suddenly on April 30, 2013 in the hostel Garrovillas (Cáceres)

Rev. Philip Wren 'Methodist Pilgrim' died May 2013 in Palencia on The Way".
Dario Bandera , Italian pilgrim 65 years of age, who was found dead on May 23, 2013 in the mountains of Nobla as close to Undués of Lerda (Zaragoza), victim of a stroke.

Alvia train 79 passengers who died in the derailment of his convoy in the vicinity of the station of Santiago de Compostela in the evening of July 24, 2013, on the eve of the feast of St. James

Manuel Dalmeda , volunteer hospitalero Najera, 62 years old, died suddenly on September 7, 2013 in Azofra (La Rioja) while visiting the latter hospitaleros population.

Two German pilgrims: HR and LWG , 43 and 49 years old respectively, who died on 20 September 2013 at the height of Pedrouzo (Arca, La Coruña), hit by a truck while walking along the shoulder of the N- 547

Dr Agnel Lobo (60 years) died in Triacastella on the 3rd of October 2013 of a  heart attack.

Miguel Martinez Maestre (55 years) and José Lillo Huertas, Alicante pilgrims traveling north to begin the Way in Villatobas (Toledo) died on April 26, 2014, when their van rolled down an embankment.

A German pilgrim, 59, died in his bed of a heart attack on April 30, 2014 in the hostel Morgade (Lugo)
An Irish pilgrim cyclist, 65 years old, died on April 12, 2014 near Hospital Condesa(Lugo) when he fell off his bicycle.

Pilgrim British cyclist, 71 years old, died on September 1, 2014 in Carrion de los Condes (Palencia) of a heart attack.

Vicenta Beltran Arnández pilgrim Valencian rider, 55 years old, died on September 5, 2014 at the hospital in Barakaldo (Vizcaya) of a stroke.

Japanese Pilgrim, 52, was found dead on November 13, 2014 in a farm shed near to San Juan de Ortega (Burgos).



Tuesday, January 13, 2015



Sant Iago - Miraculous Myths, Fantastic Fables, and the Golden Legend - or "Will the real Santiago please reveal himself!"

Recently I put a post on Facebook listing the numerous places in Europe that claimed to have a relic of St James the Greater.  Santiago wasn't the first town to claim a relic of Saint James - various relics had been around for almost 300 hundred years before he was identified in Spain.

So far I have been able to find three bodies and fifteen heads, two pieces of heads, a number of arms, hands, fingers and other limbs.  I expected to be challenged with denials or disbelief.  But, there has been nothing like that and not one of the 30 or so people who have replied have shown any surprise or contradiction.  

One person wrote, “I don't know about you, but I'm walking to enjoy the spirit of Santiago, and most importantly the Spirit of Christ, whom he loved & served. I'm not walking for random relics or body parts. Just saying. But the research is interesting.” 

Perhaps this reflects what the majority of pilgrims feel about the Camino and about Sant Iago’s relics.  If people don’t know and don’t care, or feel that they do know and still don’t care about the relics being genuine or not, perhaps it is time for the present custodians of the Santiago cathedral to announce to the world that they too have accepted that the legend about the martyred apostle, killer of thousands on two continents is just that, a legend.  What is the point of touting the medieval legend in the 21st century?  

It wasn’t this generation of Santiago church leaders who propagated the legend, or the one that turned the simple fisherman, Apostle of Christ, into an avenging killer, first as a Moor slayer (seen at over 45 battles) and then as an Indian slayer when they took him to the New World.  Ironically, in Peru, the locals turned the iconography of the warrior saint into a killer of Spaniards.

 Santiago as a Moorslayer
 Santiago Mataindianos
Santiago MataEspanois
Santiago Peregrino 

In Spain it is the Moorslayer who they named as their Patron Saint - not the gentle pilgrim we see in stained glass or statues along the Camino.  They, like their medieval counterparts, have perpetuated the myth through the centuries about the apostle Yaakov ben Zebedee’s remains being interred in the cathedral named after him in Compostela and that this is Santiago the Moor Slayer.  What have they got to lose by telling the truth?   I doubt the pilgrim numbers will go down!

The spirit of Saint James the Greater will always be in Santiago de Compostela.  We don’t need a casket containing a collection of unidentified bones to draw us there.  All around the world there are thousands of churches named for Jesus.  None can claim to have a bodily relic but millions of people worship in these churches because His spirit lives there.  

Santiago de Compostela is one of five Holy Cities in Europe, three of them in Spain.  (The other two are Rome and Jerusalem.)  In Spain, Caravaca de la Cruz (Town of the Cross) and Camaleño (the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana) have even more tenuous claims to Jubilee status than Santiago.   

 Santiago de Compostela Cathedral
 Caravaca de la Cruz
Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana
The Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana is one of the most important sites of Roman Catholicism in Europe housing the ‘Lignum Crucis’ believed to be the biggest surviving piece of the true cross.  Tradition has it that Toribio, the bishop of Astorga, brought the piece of the cross measuring 63 centimetres in length and 39 centimetres in width from Jerusalem in the 5th century. In the 8th century, the monks hid the relic in the Liébana valley to protect it from the Moors. Today the cross is embedded in a shrine decorated with gold and silver.

Oscar Solloa, a monk in the monastery, has been asked hundreds of times whether the fragment really comes from the cross on which Jesus was crucified.  'Analysis has confirmed that it comes from a Cyprus[sic] tree in Palestine that was over 2,000 years old, but that is not that important,' he says. 'Many people have found their way back to the faith by coming here.'

Caravaca de la Cruz was granted the privilege to celebrate the jubilee year in perpetuity in 1998 by Pope John Paul II.  It celebrates its jubilee every seven years; the first being in 2003, when it was visited by the then Cardinal Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict XVI.

The Holy relic here is two pieces of wood, also supposedly from the true cross, kept in a reliquary in the shape of a cross with two horizontal arms.  The cross and the wood fragments were given to the town in 1942 by Pope Pius XII to replace a 13th century cross that was stolen in February 1934.  (When the original cross went missing the townsfolk were so afraid of the implications that they dragged the priest into the square and executed him with a single shot to the head!)

The appearance of the original Caravaca cross has an uncertain foundation.  One story is that it was part of a miracle in 1232 when a chamber was flooded with a bright light and two angels appeared carrying a two armed cross containing a piece of the true cross. Overcome by this vision, the Moor steward of the area, Ceyt Abu-Ceyt, who was harassing the local priest, fell to his knees and converted to the Christian faith.  Another is that it was brought from the Holy Land by the Knights Templar, and the other is that it was carried here by the guardians of the true cross which was discovered in Jerusalem by St Helene, mother of Constantine, in the 4th century. 

So, here we have three of the world’s five Holy Cities in Spain, each with questionable relics based on miraculous mythology. 

A decapitated apostle is miraculously transported to Iberia in 44AD in a stone boat with no sails, blown across the seas by angels.

Helene Augusta, the ageing mother of Constantine, visits Jerusalem in the 4th century and miraculously discovers the three Calvary crosses. In order to determine which is the cross used to crucify Jesus, she brings a dead girl to the site. When the girl is laid down on top of the True Cross she comes back to life! 
Helene divided the cross leaving a part of it in Jerusalem and had other parts sent to religious leaders in Rome and Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul in Turkey. The first written records of the story of Helene finding the True Cross appear by the end of the fourth century.

This is only one of the legends about the cross; the 13th century Golden Legend, which became a medieval best seller, contains several versions of the discovery of the true cross, but it is the one about Helene that became the favourite in the middle ages.

By the end of the Middle Ages so many churches claimed to possess a piece of the true cross, that in 1543 John Calvin is was quoted as saying that there was enough wood in them to fill a ship.

"There is no abbey so poor as not to have a specimen. In some places there are large fragments, as at the Holy Chapel in Paris, at Poitiers, and at Rome, where a good-sized crucifix is said to have been made of it. In brief, if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load. Yet the Gospel testifies that a single man was able to carry it."
Calvin, Traité Des Reliques.

But, what about the relics of Saint James? 

The cult of Saint James was widespread across Europe and reports of his relics go back to the 6th century.  According to Prof. Leyser, an arm of James the Great was preserved in Torcello near Venice from about the 6th Century.  It passed through the hands of Bishop Vitalis, and then Germany via Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg-Bremen, the Emperors Henry 1V and Henry V. 

 In 1125 Henry V’s widow Matilda brought the left hand of Saint James to England (there is no proof that she did the pilgrimage to Santiago).  In the early 1190’s a list of over 240 relics in Reading Abbey in England included ‘the hand of Saint James with flesh and bones and the cloth in which it was wrapped’ and this became the most important relic in the abbey with many miracles attributed to it. 

The abbey was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538 during the dissolution of the monasteries and the relic disappeared.  In 1786 workmen digging at Ready Abbey found an old iron chest that contained a mummified hand believed by some to be the relic of Saint James.  It now resides in a glass case at St Peter's Church, Marlow. 

(Reading Medieval Studies by Brian Kemp, University of Reading. Studies in Medieval History presented to R.H.C. Davis: The Pilgrims Guide, CSJ London.)

 In his book “The Cult of Santiago: traditions, myths and pilgrimages” (1927) the Rev. James S. Stone writes about the many relics of St James found in Europe.

In addition to the body at Compostella, a body in St. Sernin at Toulouse and another in the church at Zibili near Milan are equally authentic. There are two of his heads in Venice - one in St. George's church, and the other in the monastery of St. Philip and St. James. A head can be found in Valencia, a fourth head at Amalfi, a fifth head at St. Vaast in Artois as well as part of a head at Pistoja.  In the Church of the Apostles in Rome are preserved a piece of the Apostle's skull and some of his blood. There are bones, hands, and arms in Sicily, on the island of Capri, at Pavia, in Bavaria, at Liege and Cologne, in Segovia, Burgos and elsewhere.” 

According to Armenian tradition, the head of James the Greater is buried in the church of Saint James the Less in Jerusalem and only his body is in Santiago. On the left side of the church, opposite one of the four square piers supporting the vaulted ceiling, is its most important shrine, the small Chapel of St James the Greater. A piece of red marble in front of the altar marks the place where his head is buried, on the reputed site of his beheading. (Church of St James the Less in Jerusalem)

 “In France alone, there were three tombs containing his body, nine heads and numerous limbs.   In 1354 the Saint-Sernin basilica in Toulouse was home to the head and the body of St. Jacques le Majeur.” 

“In 1385 the body of St. Jacques was transferred to a luxurious arch-shaped church.  It was the most magnificent reliquary of the church after that of St. Saturnin.” 

Even America has a piece of the true cross and a Sant Iago relic.  St James the Less Catholic Church in Wisconsin houses a great collection of relics:  The most precious relics we have are those of the true cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of St. James the Less, our Patron. Just a few of the other relics are: ….and St. James the Great, Apostle.”  

In 1589 the relics of Sant Iago in Compostela were hidden to safeguard them from a possible attack by Sir Francis Drake – and were lost for almost 300 years.   They were finally rediscovered in 1879 and were authenticated by Pope Leo X111 five years later as being the genuine remains of the lost saint.  How he did this with no carbon dating or DNA testing is just another one of the mysteries of Saint James!
Perhaps the time has come to admit the legend of James the Greater, and Santiago Mata Moros/ Indianos/ Espanois ,amongst medieval legends and myths and bring Santiago into the 21st Century.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Manifesto Villafranca del Bierzo - Section 4

MANIFESTO - SECTION IV: Hospitality and Welcoming the Pilgrims

Hospitality is, without a doubt, one of the fundamental elements that sustain the Camino. But owing to the absence of common regulations, a variety of privately owned, fixed-price “pilgrim albergues” are proliferating along the Way.

We propose:  

1.      To begin a movement to standardize existing rules on pilgrim accommodation.

2.      To change the designation of private albergues to avoid confusing them with traditional non-profit albergues. We can call them, for example ,“Posadas de Peregrinos,” or “Hostales de Peregrinos.” Albergues with a traditional and altruistic welcome, attended by volunteer hosts, are the foundation and the soul of the Camino. As such, they merit special protection and distinction.

3.      To offer preference in all institutional and traditional albergues to pilgrims traveling on foot, as well as long-distance hikers. Albergues operating under this designation will not accept reservations. 

4.      To configure, promote, and support a stable network of albergues and hospitality options for winter pilgrims.

5.      To adjust and rationalize the opening and closing hours in every kind of pilgrim albergue on the Camino to ensure hospitaleros and pilgrims get enough rest.

The Camino is here for walking and enjoying, not for racing from albergue to albergue, standing in queue from 9 a.m. to get a bed for the night. Respect and solidarity should come first on the Jacobean Way.

MANIFESTO:  “ …..a variety of privately owned fixed-price “pilgrim albergues” are proliferating along the Way.”


I see this as a good thing! On many of the lesser walked routes there aren’t enough albergues and on the crowded routes there aren’t enough traditional albergues left to cater for the large rise in numbers.  

Many Spanish people have opened their homes and rent out rooms to passing pilgrims.  This was encouraged by Elias Valiña’s 1987 guide, which suggested that Tourist offices could help pilgrims find these rooms. 

 In Zubiri a couple feeling the economic pinch when the father was retrenched in 2011 moved in with her parents and turned their home into a pension that can sleep 8 people.  

Many foreigners who walk a Camino and fall in love with it and return to Spain to live there. Some  end up taking in pilgrims to supplement their income.  According to Don Jose Ignacio Diaz Perez (of Grañon), one can find a comparison with the medieval pilgrimage when there were many cases of foreigners who came to settle after having been on the pilgrimage themselves.  
In the middle-ages thousands of French families were encouraged to relocate to the north of Spain in order to populate the country with Christians and so balance the threat of Islam and locals welcomed pilgrims into their homes.  (Hence the number of towns with the name Villafranca).

We cannot recreate the medieval hospitality experience - no matter how hard we try. The basic reason for providing shelter to pilgrims was almost purely religious.  Not so today.  When asked why they want to be hospitaleros, today's volunteers invariably say, "I want to give back to the Camino".  The religious culture of care has changed.  Being prepared to conduct an 'oracion' (blessing) is no longer a requirement for hospitaleros.
Albergues:  Choice is a good thing.  We can't keep looking backwards at what was offered to medieval pilgrims.  We are now in the 21st century and Camino pilgrims are a product of this era. 
There was class distinctions in the middle ages with better accommodation reserved for the upper classes, the best food allocated to the wealthy and numerous relics only displayed to a special class of pilgrim, not to the masses.  Today all pilgrims are treated equally and all pilgrims have the right to choose where they want to stay.
Not every pilgrim wants to stay in a basic albergue with no beds and two showers (Tosantos, Grañon) or no electricity (Manjarin, San Anton) even if these are voted as the most spiritual albergues on the Camino. 
Some people prefer to have a private room (perhaps they snore, suffer from sleep apnoea, are light sleepers or are just shy and don’t want to sleep with strangers).  The Camino can cater for all pilgrims and where they sleep shouldn’t be an issue.  As Peter Robbins said, “the albergues were meant only for pilgrims” but then the perception changed to “pilgrims should only sleep in albergues” which is nonsensical.    
Monasteries that traditionally provided accommodation for pilgrims in the middle-ages are now big business with tourists (and rooms are not cheap).  You can buy guides to lodgings in hundreds of monasteries all over the world.   

1. To begin a movement to standardize existing rules on pilgrim accommodation.


What are the existing rules?  Do they concern size of dormitories, spaces between beds and number of beds per room, number of toilets per capita pilgrims, cleanliness, months that they are open, opening and closing times, the establishment of new albergues where one already exists?


There are many private homes and pensions on the Camino Frances that offer mixed accommodation with private en suite rooms; private rooms with shared bathrooms and dormitories for pilgrims.  Don't these already adhere to local planning rules?  Will the proposed movement be able to legally impose their rules on privately owned establishments?
Let pilgrims be the watchdogs!  Pilgrims are quick to complain and albergues that are not up to scratch, or that are unsanitary, over charge, or that have bed-bugs are soon exposed on the Camino grape-vine via social networks like forums and Facebook.  There is nowhere for them to hide! 
Instead of starting a movement to impose more rules, perhaps a watch-dog group to investigate complaints would be more useful. 

2.      To change the designation of private albergues to avoid confusing them with traditional non-profit albergues. We can call them, for example ,“Posadas de Peregrinos,” or “Hostales de Peregrinos.” Albergues with a traditional and altruistic welcome, attended by volunteer hosts, are the foundation and the soul of the Camino. As such, they merit special protection and distinction.

The term 'traditional non-profit' isn't clear.  What does it mean?  Does this mean that only donativo albergues will be classified as ‘non-profit’ albergues?   What about traditional albergues that charge pilgrims?


There are many traditional albergues that now charge which pre-date the ‘refugios’ set up by the AMIGOS after the 1987 congress in Jaca. This includes the one in Santo Domingo de la Calzada which was the first to be established for modern day pilgrims and is probably one of the oldest still in existence.

In Elias Valiña’s Pilgrim Guide (reprinted 1n 1987) there is a list of 72 ‘refugios’ on the Camino Frances whose “.... maintenance depends on the AMIGOS Ayuntamientos, Religious communities, Parishes or individuals.” 
There is no indication whether these refugios charged pilgrims or not but with so few donativo albergues left, I’m sure that a search to compare then and now will show that many of those that were donativo now charge – like all the municipal albergues in Galicia, the one in Santo Domingo and the convent in Leon.
According to Colin Jones of the CSJ, there were about 88 refugios in 2000 - 58 municipal, 10 private and 20 belonging to the church.
The 2002 CSJ (Confraternity of St James) guide to the Camino Frances, lists 107 refugios; only 15 more than in 1987 so not a huge growth in numbers.
Doing a rough count, there are over 400 albergues on the Camino Frances today and only 15 of these are traditional non-profit (i.e. donativo). They are in Estella, Viana, Logrono, Najera, Granon, Tosantos, Villalcazar de Sirga, Sahagun Madres Benedictinas, Bercianos del Real Camino, El Burgo Ranero, Rabanal, Parroquial de Foncebadon, Parroquial de El Acebo, Ponferrada and Samos.

This shows that there has been a considerable growth in the number of albergues in the past 12 years which reflects the comparative rise in the number of people doing the Camino.  It also reflects one of the most fundamental concepts driving economics - supply and demand.  
If the church, or the municipalities, or the various Jacobean organisations had been able to keep up with the  number of pilgrims needing accommodation, it might not have been economically viable for so many private albergues to be established.  Instead, as things stand, the number of traditional donativo albergues have dropped (two of the oldest parish albergues started charging in 2013) and the private albergues have taken their place.

1.      To offer preference in all institutional and traditional albergues to pilgrims traveling on foot, as well as long-distance hikers. Albergues operating under this designation will not accept reservations. 


Fair enough - I know where they are coming from, and this is what we teach trainee hospitaleros, but I think this rule could have contributed to the bed-rush in the past!  A possible solution was considered for pilgrims in Galicia in 2005 but I don’t think anything came of it. In 2005 this was posted on the St James’ forum:
Last week the Xunta, and the new Director of Tourism, Ruben Leos, arrived at an accord whereby pilgrims that occupy the albergues will be asked to contribute to their upkeep by paying a fee which will range from 3 to 10 Euros.  The income from such fees will allow the albergues to offer better service, including bed-clothing and towels, and it will also provide some means for augmenting personnel in the albergues so that claims of being a pilgrim may be looked into in such a manner that phony ones may be detected.
The good news about the proposed change is that, in addition to better services in the albergues, true pilgrims will be able to make reservations in the forthcoming albergue as they leave one.  This will avoid the necessity of pilgrims starting out before dawn, in the dark, so that they may reach the next albergue by one o'clock in order to find a space.  Since the reservations will be made from one albergue to another presumably the increased attention, time intervals, and tracking will uncover free-loaders pretending to be pilgrims and will provide needed ease of mind to true pilgrims

Well – I don’t whether that idea was ever implemented, but in 2007 when I walked the Camino, we made reservations in private albergues each day from Sarria to Santiago and this meant that we didn’t have to join the bed-race.  We were able to walk at a sensible pace, visit churches and places of interest and arrive after lunchtime with sufficient time to wash our clothes and sightsee in the town.  And what's more, some of them were the best albergues on the Camino with welcoming and gracious hosts with a wonderful pilgrim ethos.  

4.      To configure, promote, and support a stable network of albergues and hospitality options for winter pilgrims.


‘Stable network’ is what caught my eye.  Albergues that advertise that they are open in winter often are not – such as the Jesus y Maria in Pamplona which is supposed to be open during winter but was closed for a Christmas Holiday and only reopened on the 11th January. 

5.      To adjust and rationalize the opening and closing hours in every kind of pilgrim albergue on the Camino to ensure hospitaleros and pilgrims get enough rest.

It’s a well meant idea but I really don’t see how it can work in private albergues.  Many private albergues don’t have hospitaleros as such and some that are in private homes-cum-albergues don’t have specific opening or closing times.   

Many municipal albergues have a volunteer who arrives at check-in time to stamp sellos and take the fee.  After a few hours they leave.  This was the case in many of the municipal albergues I’ve stayed in on the Camino Frances.  In a couple of albergues the front doors are locked but pilgrims are told that can enter after hours through a side gate or back door. 

The second International Conference of the CSJ of UK held in Canterbury in 2001 was attended by over 100 delegates.  The theme of the conference was ‘Body & Soul, hospitality through the ages on the Roads to Compostela’. 
Anybody interested in learning about hospitality on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela should buy and read a copy of the Conference Proceedings, available from the CSJ Bookshop.